Romantic Names for Components: A Thing of the Past

Recent discussions here led me to wonder about components named after places. It turns out there are not so many and Ford is the most romantic of all in this regard.

Valencia, Spain. The engines are made in the house, centre: www.foundvalencia.com
Valencia, Spain. The engines are made in the house, centre: http://www.foundvalencia.com

What started this was the mention of the ZF gearbox used in later Peugeot 604s. I recalled that the GM Strasbourg unit initially did service in that car, a smooth 3-speeder of ancient lineage even in 1976. It was replaced by a ZF unit in 1981. In 2012 GM sold their Alsatian gearbox plant and among their customers is now ZF. I think naming such components after places rather than giving them technical names is rather endearing. When you think of the Strasbourg automatic ‘box, you think of this:

Strasbourg town centre. I was there once and didn´t see any of this but instead saw the rather uninspiring plaza in front of the railway station. The hotel was dire too: admissions.syr.edu
Strasbourg town centre. I was there once and didn´t see any of this but instead saw the rather uninspiring plaza in front of the railway station. The hotel was dire too: admissions.syr.edu

When you think of a Duratec engine you think of nothing. Place names tie the car to a geographical location, with all the associations of culture, language and history. It becomes a thing bound to a heritage and to human values and all this entails. When I learned that Lancia’s decline began with the closure of their original factory at Chivasso this point sunk home. Cars can be the product of a community, even a strange sort of one as 3400 employees inside a huge complex of concrete structures.

Other examples of place-names linked to components are not so numerous. Douvrin in France gave its name to some woefully dreary 4-cylinders and also to the fabulously long-lived and slightly suspect V6 that powered the 604 we started with. There must be a car out there with the most place names attached. Had I more time on earth I would pursue that line of inquiry; for the moment it stands as an open question. It’s probably an American car with a named engine, a body style and perhaps some special trim designation.

Ford turned out to be the most inclined to name their engines after places. The Kent engine was so-called only because an engineer involved lived nearby. The same engine was produced in Spain and so was also named the Valencia. Windsor in Canada lent its moniker to some V8s. And production moved to Cleveland, offering a new chance for a geographical designation though the Windsor name outlived its replacement.

Lastly we fly back to Europe to lovely old Cologne, where Ford produced their venerable V6 from 1962 to, amazingly, 2011. The Cologne ran alongside the Essex unit (also a V6, from 1966 to 1988). It is indicative of the trend for consolidation that Cologne trumped Essex though the world is a poorer place for the cessation of engine production in Dagenham.

And the world is a slightly poorer place for the triumph of technical designations such as ZDJ/ZEJ (originally Douvrin) instead of a memorable proper noun.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

3 thoughts on “Romantic Names for Components: A Thing of the Past”

  1. Yes, the Essex name cropped up in my searches. As a one-time resident of the UK and Ireland, I am burdened with the prejudices associated with Essex though I also remember to resist them. Within sight of the Corydon refinery you can find hints of remote Essex, Essex of the 19th century (I saw a village on the Thames escarpment with a flint church and a row of cottages). There’s Saffron Walden too and a rich heritage of social experimentation. So, yes, the Essex V6 could be seen in another light. And that’s what one might want in a 70s Granada.

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